Dog gone shame

We’ve reported a couple of stories about dogs recently that have been disappointing, given the Island’s and our love of pups.

What allegedly happened to Max the dog is infuriating. Edgartown Police were called by witnesses who told them Max was being abused. When the first officer arrived, he allegedly saw Jay Michael Linhares pull on the dog’s leash with two hands, “causing the dog’s neck and head to lurch forward.”

Witnesses reported seeing Linhares allegedly kick the dog repeatedly, raise his hand as if to strike the dog, and yell at Max loudly. The dog cowered.

According to the police report, Linhares told the officer he was correcting the dog, and “showing it who’s the boss.”

Linhares was charged with animal cruelty, and the dog was taken into the protective care of the Edgartown animal control officer.

It’s what happened in the courts that is equally troubling. Max was ordered released to an unidentified third party — apparently someone Linhares knew. The dog was then allegedly swiped by Linhares and taken off-Island.

Eventually, with the help of off-Island departments, Edgartown Police found Max, brought him back to the Island, but again the dog was released to a different third party. 

It’s baffling to understand for the public. We’d like to know more, but the records regarding the dog are sealed by the courts without explanation.

After talking to experts in animal cruelty cases, it becomes clear that Edgartown District Court Judge Benjamin Barnes had other options that he didn’t use and, frankly, sending a dog to a third party is rare — especially in a case like this one that involves the dog as a key piece of evidence. 

When this case is back in court, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe’s office needs to do a better job of ensuring the safety of Max. A state law allows a judge to impose a bond on a dog owner for the care of the animal while it’s in custody. In some cases, an expert told The Times, that forces the hand of a bad dog owner to give the dog up to be rehomed.

There were options such as the Animal Rescue League of Boston to care for the dog. We’re told Max likes the second “third party” he was placed with. That’s good news, but we still fear for the dog’s safety.

Meanwhile, in West Tisbury, dog owner Matt Hayden was ordered to install a fence around his property and to keep his dog on a leash when he’s off the property after the board of selectmen declared Nesta, Hayden’s husky, a nuisance.

The dog got into the yard of Cynthia Riggs and killed a pet chicken named Buffy. The dog was caught in the act by a tenant on the property.

During that meeting, Hayden made some hyperbolic statements threatening to euthanize the dog himself rather than install a fence around his property, which he said he could not afford.

“If that’s something that’s going to be enforced, I will be euthanizing my dog this weekend,” Hayden said. “And you can come over and watch if you want.” 

He didn’t do that, thankfully.

But he hasn’t installed the fence yet, either. 

We were pleased to see selectmen taking the issue seriously for the dog’s safety and the safety of livestock in the area.

They gave Hayden until this Thursday at 4 pm to either have the fence installed or they would have the town’s animal control officer, Anthony Cordray, take Nesta into custody until the work is completed. Hayden could also face fines if he fails to comply with the board’s order.

Owning a dog can be filled with joy. Dogs are loyal, affectionate companions. But dog ownership also comes with tremendous responsibility to keep them fed, healthy, and safe. 

Linhares and Hayden should rethink their commitments to Max and Nesta. If they can’t handle their responsibilities, they should put the dogs up for adoption. Meanwhile, law enforcement and town officials should keep these owners on a short leash.